Nele Schmitz

junior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2014/2015
discipline Environmental Science
Postdoctoral researcher University of Natural Resources and Life Science Vienna Institute of Botany

Research project

The Role of Trees in our Society. The Impact of a Tree-less World on Man & Environment


Decreasing stocks of natural resources is one of the global megatrends threatening societies. How do we rhyme the on-going destruction of our environment with the evolution towards a knowledge society? In this study the focus is on trees, a natural resource widely spread through the daily lives of many. Little integrative research, merging the focus of ecologist and social scientist, has been done so far. However, to tackle the problem of deforestation a long term vision is needed that is shared and understood by everyone, including the human and sociological aspects and using a common language.

Starting from the hypothesis that life on earth is possible without trees, without significantly influencing people’s lives, the following questions will be researched: (i) What are the biological, economic and social values of trees? (ii) How do these values change with country-dependent variables? (iii) How did and do these values change over time? To this goal the available literature will be reviewed, the relationships between values, and between values and country-dependent variables analysed and the temporal evolution of the values investigated.

The ambition is to understand why we are destroying our forests while we actually don’t want to. Certainly in times of economic crisis, people want to be correctly informed before giving up some of their privileges in favour of a bigger, long term goal. Complex environmental issues with potentially severe consequences for ecosystems, such as the depletion of natural resources, ask for clear and integral information. Only understanding can alert to own responsibility to take care of the environment to which also humankind belongs. In addition, it will help governments in decision making concerning our forests.



Nele Schmitz is a biologist, specialized in wood anatomy and tree ecology. She was a Postdoctoral researcher in the Institutes of Botany and Wood science at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna (BOKU), at the Australian National University in Canberra (ANU) and at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). She holds a Ph.D in Sciences from VUB for which she collaborated with the Laboratory for Wood Biology and Xylarium of the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren (KMMA).


Up to now, her research was focused on the water transporting system of mangrove trees. She focused on the wood anatomy and eco-physiology of mangrove species along environmental gradients. Her future interest goes to trees and their contribution to human well being along socio-economic gradients.

Selected publications


'The anatomical basis of the link between wood density and mechanical strength in mangrove branches', with N. Santini-Gomez & C.E. Lovelock,  Functional Plant Biology, vol. 40, 2013, pp. 400-408.


'Static or dynamic intervessel pit membranes? A structural and compositional analysis of the sapwood of some mangrove woods', with G. Koch et al., IAWA Journal, vol. 33, no. 3, 2012, pp. 243-256.


'Temperature variation among mangrove latitudinal range limits worldwide', with K. Quisthoudt et al., Trees-Structure and Function, vol. 26, 2012, pp. 1919-1931.


'Light-dependent maintenance of hydraulic function in mangrove branches: do xylary chloroplasts play a role in embolism repair?' with J.G. Egerton, C.E. Lovelock & M.C. Ball, New Phytologist, vol. 195, 2012, pp. 40–46.


'Successive Cambia: a Developmental Oddity or an Adaptive Structure?', with E.M.R. Robert et al., PLoS ONE [online journal], vol. 6, no. 1, 2011, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0016558.


'Mangrove growth rings: fact or fiction?', with E.M.R. Robert et al., Trees Structure and Function, vol. 25, no. 1, 2010, pp. 49-58.


‘Intervessel pit structure and histochemistry of two mangrove species as revealed by cellular UV microspectrophotometry and electron microscopy: intraspecific variation and functional significance’, with G. Koch et al., Microscopy and Microanalysis, vol. 14, no. 5, 2008, pp. 387-397.



senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2016/2017
Collegium de Lyon
discipline Humanities and Social Sciences
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2017/2018
Collegium de Lyon
discipline Literature
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2012/2013
Collegium de Lyon
discipline History
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2018/2019
Collegium de Lyon
discipline Art History